Lichfield Cathedral, Staffordshire

A greatly restored Gothic cathedral stands proudly on the site of over 1300 years of Christian worship. The first cathedral, probably no more than a simple wooden building, dates from about AD700 and was founded in honour of St Chad. When the Norman cathedral began life in the late 11th century, St Chad's body was placed in a shrine behind the High Altar and still, today, the life of St Chad is displayed in a beautiful array of Kempe glass around the Chapter House, with a modern shrine dedicated to this remarkable man now sited in the Lady Chapel.

In common with many of the glorious medieval cathedrals in England, Lichfield Cathedral has survived a chequered history, and its appearance has changed many times throughout the last 800 years. Following a clumsy attempt by James Wyatt to transform the cathedral after suffering serious destruction during the Civil War, the richly decorated building of today is largely attributed to Sir Gilbert Scott. Throughout the latter half of the 19th century, Scott tried to restore Lichfield Cathedral to its medieval splendour, as well as incorporating new and colourful ideas. The west front is literally covered with statues of Saxon & Norman Kings, and many renowned biblical characters, and the magnificent west window shows the birth of Jesus.

Inside, Lichfield Cathedral houses a host of priceless treasures and notable features. At the end of the south choir aisle is a wonderful medieval piscina decorated with a 15th century wall painting of The Crucifixion. On display in the Chapter House are the 8th century illuminated Lichfield Gospels, saved by the Duchess of Somerset during the Civil War. There is an abundance of carving, both in wood and stone, throughout Lichfield Cathedral, many sculptures, and some exquisite examples of stained glass windows.

Another outstanding feature attributed to Scott are the tiled floors, the patterns for which were influenced by the medieval tiles remaining on the floor of the library. Separating the nave from the choir is a splendid metalwork Victorian screen, the ornate delicacy of this structure giving a certain sumptuousness to the heart of the church. Beyond the choir, is the site of the High Altar which was replaced, again by Scott, using some attractive local stone. A sedilia was also reconstructed during the 19th century, incorporating some of the original medieval stone.

This has to be one of England's most lavish, ancient cathedrals and a perfect example of how a combination of old and new can really work well together. To date we have only been able to make one visit to Lichfield Cathedral but it was so impressive that returning in the near future is an absolute definite. Photographically it is a delight - the setting is very picturesque and the external architecture is quite breathtaking. The small city of Lichfield is also a surprisingly quiet and pretty place.


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